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(August 1944)

2.  The Parson & Clerk

by Chris Myers

2.  The Parson & Clerk

We walk out of the Park through the little gate. It doesn't close itself after us, like it used to. I think the spring is broken. A lot of little things like that are broken, these days, and don't get mended. I expect the bloke whose job it is to do this sort of thing is away somewhere, probably fighting Jerry or the Japs. We pull it to behind us and latch it.

Before we move off, I look across the road at the Parson and Clerk pub. There is a large building behind it which I've seen before and interests me. It's round or oval and is made mainly of thick pieces of timber and it has a thatched roof over the top of it. There are two openings opposite each other so that people can walk into it and stand out of the rain. All around the inside, except where the openings are, there is this sort of wide shelf, about as high up as my chin. (Remember that I'm eight and so not all that tall!) Above the shelf it is all open, with no windows. Just the upright chunks of wood which support the roof. I think that the idea of it is that people can stand there on a summer's evening, drink their pints in the fresh air and have somewhere to put the glasses down and have a good time without getting wet if it starts to rain. They can have their kids there too, because we aren't allowed inside the pub, as you know. I think it must be super if the weather is warm and people start to get a bit tipsy and jolly. It's probably quite cosy. And friendly.

I try and visualise a summer's evening over there, prewar. A Sunday, perhaps. There will be masses of cars parked, Morris 8s, Austins 10s, Ford Prefects (like Dad has). And, here and there, swankier cars, Armstrong Siddeleys, Rovers, SS Jaguars with long, gleaming bonnets and massive headlamps. The odd MG two-seater or even a little three-wheeled Morgan. It is always the big American cars which interest me the most. Perhaps there are one or two there as well. Buicks, Packards, Chryslers. I once had a good look at a two-seater Lincoln Zephyr. Brown seats but they were really one bench seat and so three people could have sat on it. I always look at the speedometer and this one went up to 120 m.p.h. (It wasn't in the car park here, though, this one was parked outside Cutler's Garage, by the Hardwick). I was very pleased to see it because I have a pre-war Dinky Toy model of one. When you stick your nose through the open window of a car like that, and they are all the same, there's always a lovely smell. Of course I did that to the Lincoln because the driver's window was down. I said to Dad that I thought it smelt of speed, like all the others. No, he said, it's the leather. But I still think that it's speed that they smell of. And it helps when there is a whiff of petrol as well.

All this time, the owners of these cars, and their families, are either inside the pub or in this outside shelter having a final pint or a gin and orange before carrying on back to their homes in the Birmingham suburbs, in Erdington or Quinton or Harborne. They have all had a good day out, I expect. On Cannock Chase or further away, at the seaside at Rhyl or Barmouth or in the Welsh mountains. The cars are resting, quiet, waiting for their master to come back. Just an occasional tick or crack or creak as they cool down after their journeys. And then, much later, not long after closing time, and after the landlord has rung a bell and shouted out "Time, gentlemen, please" and the last pints have been drained, there will be a slamming of doors, shouts of cheerio, the cars revving up and finally pulling out on to the Chester Road or Sutton Oak Road and they will all be gone. The car park will be empty.

As it is now. As is the funny shelter thing. There is no one about. It's usually like this now. Including at weekends.

I know the Parson and Clerk used to be my dad's favourite pub. What they call "his local". A long time ago, possibly even before I was born, Dad had a bit of a problem there. The landlady accused him of bumping into her and causing her to spill her drink. She wasn’t very polite about it, even though he was a regular customer. Dad wasn’t happy about this at all but offered to buy her another one. But he also said “and if you accept that offer I shall never step foot in this pub again”. The landlady took the drink and Dad took his business to the Hardwick Arms where it still is and will probably stay for as long as he lives. Dad is a very nice man but he expects other people to behave the same way. That’s the story I was told and I know that Dad will keep to what he said.

And that's why Graham will probably never meet up with him there. Anyway, the Hardwick probably suited them both much better. It’s where a lot of their Home Guard pals used to go for a pint and to discuss tactics. They still do, even though Graham has been away for so long now and some of the other younger men have been called up into the Army or RAF themselves. The friends who still meet up are mainly older blokes, like Dad himself or like Mr Naylor or Mr Broomhead who live at the bottom of Hardwick Road. They are in the same platoon as Dad at Little Aston Hall. Not in the big house itself but in the stables. Our local bobby, Mr Cope, goes there as well. I expect there are a lot of others. I have never been inside of course. Children aren’t allowed. You have to sit outside and wait - with a glass of lemonade and a packet of crisps, if you are lucky. And so I have never been in the Parson and Clerk either and probably never will. I know the outside well enough. I do wonder what it looks like inside, though. 

   3. The Queslett Road Crossroads
   and The Americans



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L8B April 2022
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